Sun, Sep 10, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Japanese lament lack of substance in race for PM


The start of the race to be next Japanese prime minister has been devoid of all policy debate, with one candidate enjoying massive support without explaining his plans, local media lamented yesterday.

The official campaign kicked off on Friday to replace Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe at the head of the list of three candidates.

"What kind of country are they trying to build? They utter words, but they do not show concrete plans," the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper said in an editorial.

"Including Mr. Abe, the front runner in the race, the candidates are basically saying nothing," it said.

"Mr. Abe talks about `a new horizon' but he does not talk about how he will reach it. We cannot tell where the ship is headed," it said.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party votes on Sept. 20 to decide on the successor to Koizumi, who is stepping down after more than five years in office.

The winner will officially become Japan's prime minister one week later.

Along with Abe, Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Finance Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki are running for the top position.

Newspaper surveys have shown a majority of LDP members are already committed to vote for Abe, who came to prominence only in recent years for his hawkish position on North Korea.

The campaign lacks any sense of suspense, with many lawmakers jumping on the bandwagon to support Abe, the influential liberal daily Asahi Shimbun said.

The Asahi speculated that Abe is keeping tight-lipped about his policy plans because he does want to be tied to promises.

"He remains vague on sensitive questions like his views on history," the Asahi said in its editorial.

"A solo winner receiving support without spelling out policies ... How did we come to see such a strange LDP race?" the Asahi asked.

The Yomiuri Shimbun also called on Abe to explain his policies in detail.

"It has been pointed out that Abe's comfortable lead in the race is the reason why there has been little debate over policies so far," the Yomiuri said in an editorial.

"Abe has a particular obligation to spur debates during the campaign by clearly explaining how he intends to deal with important policy issues and form the new Cabinet and party leadership line-up," it said.

"The three [candidates] have not discussed policy issues sufficiently. At public debates and other occasions during the campaign, they must present clear ideas to voters to guide the country through difficult times," the Yomiuri said.

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